Sometimes the tiniest, least expensive gifts  provide  the greatest pleasure.  When recipients acknowledge their  delight in the manner of the examples below, the result it is a gift to us all.


A dream in a bottle.

A dream in a bottle.

In 1989 The children’s author Roald Dahl received a small container  filled with coloured water, oil and glitter. It was sent by seven year old Amy Coco, who had been inspired by Dahl’s book,  The BFG.  The author recognized  it instantly as  ‘a dream in a bottle’.  He wrote Amy a sweet letter of thanks;



Of all the  thank  you letters I have read, the warmest, wittiest and most engaging was written by English writer, Sylvia Townsend Warner.  At Christmas 1946, she received a wooden matchbox, from her friend and fellow writer, Alyse Gregory. The box pictured must have been similar;


Here is her response to the gift;



And then, an equally charming  afterthought, and  postscript;




I once made a matchbox gift for a young visitor. So much fun for me too. This box definitely wasn’t empty though. Oh dear, the new ‘father’ doesn’t look impressed;


During WWI a soldier fighting in France sent a letter to a little girl from Clifton Creek in Victoria, after he received a pair of woolen mittens from her. It was the winter of 1917;

My dear little Friend,

I am writing to thank you most sincerely for the pair of mittens that you made and sent to the front, and which, luckily, were received by me. Although you say they were the first pair you ever made, I think you must have taken a great deal of trouble with them. The boys over here feel very proud of all the little Victorians who have been working so hard making warm things for us to wear during the winter. Most of us had never seen snow before. My home is in Bendigo, and although I have to thank you from many thousands of miles away, still my thoughts always turn to Victoria and her people, who are always doing everything possible to make things easier for us. When you have some time after school write me a little letter and I will write back to you…….T.M.

I must say that my mother-in-law Jean was another person who appreciated the tiniest gift and treasured it forever. When she died I discovered she had kept everything I had given her over the years, right down to a decorated gum leaf from my garden.

Gum leaf face
Keep smiling!

We are currently negotiating a terrifying pandemic and an accompanying economic melt-down. It occurs to me that the days of excessive consumerism may be over, and that the ability to find joy in the most simple of gifts will be very important. KEEP SMILING!


I shared this story on the Facebook group I run, Astralian Social History. This response was so touching I shed a few tears. Thanks Evie. You are a good person!

  1. What a delightful article, I was particularly enchanted by the story of the gift of a matchbox, and I would like to add my story of a gift I received this Christmas, from my daughter Jenny.
    Now am a great May Gibbs fan since childhood, and i would shudder when the big bad Banksia Men
    threatened poor Snugglepot & Cuddlepie. Being raised at my Grandmother’s home in the city during the second World War while my father was away, I had not seen a Banksia tree. I was delighted when I finally did so,during a holiday to Bundeena National Park, and could immediately see how May Gibbs could envision these dastardly characters.
    This Christmas morning, I opened a small gift from my daughter, I was delighted with the small round wooden object in my hand.It was smoothed, and shaped from the Banksia seed pod. Only as big as a very small apple, this lovely oil diffuser was accompanied by a small bottle of eucalyptus oil.It now sits, filled, on my bookshelf, and i consider it the most delightful gift I have received this Christmas.

    • Pauline

      Thanks so much Fay. What a lovely Christmas story. Did you know that there is a wonderful May Gibbs exhibition on at the Library of New South Wales? It runs until February. I have a tree ornament made from a banksia pod, in the shape of a bell. I can understand why you love your gift. The combination of the banksia and eucalyptus oil sounds magical. I loved that letter about the match box so much. I am busy writing an article about Sylvia Townsend Warner and her partner for Valentine’s Day.

    • Dear Pauline, I would love to see the May Gibbs exhibition but I live near Brisbane, do you think there is a chance the exhibits may move to a Brisbane Museum?

      • Pauline

        I don’t think so, Fay. It’s just a little exhibition from their archives to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie. But my associate Editor Des is writing a blog about it.

  2. As a small child with a very modest pocket money sum doled out every Saturday morning, I once bought my dad a packet of different coloured rubber bands for Christmas from Woolworth, thinking they’d be very useful to him. I had surmised that he must like rubber as he was managing engineer of a rubber factory at Barking in Essex on the edge of London at the time. My good intentions were misguided. Apparently, he walked through rubber bands ankle deep every day on the factory floor, and could pick up a handful to put in his pocket anytime he wanted to. So that was a waste of 3d! 🙁

    • Pauline

      Oh Marcia, that so funny/poignant. I do hope your father didn’t let on that he had ‘an ample sufficiency’ of rubber bands. When I was about 7 I bought my dad a garish pair of socks. He always said they were his special sports socks and was keeping them for a special occasion.

  3. I love your post on receiving small gifts. I agree with you that the ‘thank you’ one from the writer, Sylvia Townsend Warner was the best I had read. No wonder she was a writer because even in the ‘thank you’ bane, her written reponse made it sound so poetic. I won’t look on any small box again without thinking of her. I love miniature pieces and I have collected several miniature boxes, for what reason, I haven’t been able to explain sensibly to anyone. Now, I can use Sylvia’s example in a romantic embellishment of a seemingly uninspiring object.
    By-the-by, I think your husband looks as handsome as Simon Baker. It doesn’t matter if his head is a tad minus a thatch of hair. It’s what his eyes say that counts. His eyes sparkle with humor and fun.
    Thank you for your posts. I love reading them and the replies of your readers.

    • Pauline

      Thank you Heather, I do appreciate everyone who takes the trouble to respond. I collect pillboxes due to my love of tiny boxes. Poor Rob, when you are married to me you need a sense of humour. BTW, I told him what you said about him and he said, ‘Is Heather on Tinder??’

  4. What a delightful post. Sometimes it is the small things that touch us the most. @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

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